Resource Details

Testing applied nucleation as a strategy to facilitate tropical forest recovery

Literature: Journal Articles

Zahawi, R.A., Holl, K.D., Cole, R.J., Reid, J.L., 2013. "Testing applied nucleation as a strategy to facilitate tropical forest recovery." Journal of Applied Ecology vol. 50, no. 1, pp. 88-96.

Contact Info

  • Corresponding Author: Rakan A. Zawahi
    • E-mail:


  • Las Cruces Biological Station, Organization for Tropical Studies, Apdo, 73-8257, San Vito, Costa Rica
  • Environmental Studies Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, 95064, USA


Journal of Applied Ecology

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Species Info

  • Axonopus scoparius
  • Pennisetum purpureum
  • Urochloa brizantha
  • Pteridium arachnoideum
  • Terminalia amazonia
  • Vochysia guatemalensis
  • Erythrina poeppigiana
  • Inga edulis
  • Conostegia xalapensis
  • Heliocarpus appendiculatus
  • Miconia trinervia
  • Miconia schlimii
  • Cecropia obtusifolia


  • There are many strategies for the restoration of degraded tracts of land in the tropics. And in general, more intensely degraded sites require more intensive, and thereby expensive, approaches.
  • Applied nucleation, or the intensive planting of small patches of a mixture of successional species, which then catalyzes the natural regeneration of the surrounding matrix and larger landscape could provide a less expensive alternative to the more common, and expensive, plantation-style approach. This study claims to be the first to directly compare tree recruitment beneath these two restoration approaches.
  • To do so, 50 x 50 m plots of abandoned pastureland in Costa Rica's premontane forest zone were assigned with a similar mix of species (T. amazonia, V. guatemalensis, I. edulis, E. poeppigiana) and spacing, but in either a complete plantation-like covering or in small 4x4, 8x8, or 12x12 m patches.
  • After 2.5 years (which included clearing and some replanting) the vegetation was sampled using a stratified sampling procedure, and sampling continued over the next 4 years. “Resprouts” were not counted, and distinctions were made between wind and animal dispersed species.
  • What they found was that canopy cover was highest in plantaions, then in island plots, and lowest in control plots (95%, 73%, 36%). The number of aniamal-dispersed seedlings and overall recruits was higher in the island treatments than in controls, and did not differ from plantations. Larger (12x12m) had greater overall density than smaller (4x4m) island plots. Even though only 20% of the area in island plots was planted, there was a similar amount of species abundance established after 4 years as compared to the plantation-style plots.
  • In summary, applied nucleation is a promising restoration strategy that can accelerate forest recovery to a similar degree as plantation-style restoration and is more economical and therefore restoration practitioners should consider the methodology as an alternative to large-scale plantings.

Geographical Region

  • Southern Central America
  • Country

  • Costa Rica
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